ONE Championship has become known for putting on exciting events filled with highlight-reel finishes over the past five years, and its past three events did not disappoint.
However, looking back at this past quarter, a handful of performances truly stood out. Here are the five best fights in ONE Championship during this period.
#1 Ev Ting vs Rob Lisita at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September
Over the past couple of years, Malaysian-Kiwi sensation Ev “E.T.” Ting has made a home for his noteworthy performances in Kuala Lumpur. He has headlined ONE Championship events in Malaysia’s capital city with tremendous success, and as he climbs to the top of the ranks, Ting promises more memorable bouts to come.
This September, Ting took on the always dangerous “Ruthless” Rob Lisita. Nevermind that upon entering the cage, Lisita had been on a three-fight skid. The Australian brawler will always pose a threat no matter what the circumstances, and the same rang true when he stood across the cage from Ting that night.
Lisita employed a more-calculated approach in the fight, making use of his wrestling skills to drag Ting down to the mat easily for the first couple of rounds. As the bout wore on however, the better striker in Ting started to place his combinations more effectively as Lisita began to tire.
From the middle of the bout, Ting put together an amazing display of grit and heart, tagging Lisita with multiple well-timed strikes while Lisita tried desperately to hang on. As Ting’s gas tank emptied, both fighters pushed each other to the limit in a test of physical and mental strength. Incredibly, the 33-year-old veteran Lisita was able to make it to the final bell.
It was, however, Ev Ting’s victory in Malaysia as he deservedly earned the unanimous decision, but it was one truly action-packed matchup.
#2 Shannon Wiratchai vs Peter Davis at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September
Shannon “One Shin” Wiratchai is one of ONE Championship’s most dynamic attacking talents. He trains in multiple disciplines including Muay Thai and baguazhang, and the way he is able to mesh all the styles together is his most impressive trait.
When Wiratchai challenged Malaysian Peter Davis in front of his home crowd in Kuala Lumpur last September, it was billed by many observers to be a matchup of a creative, talented striker against a dedicated workhorse. What fans got was exactly that.
From the sound of the opening bell, it was clear that Wiratchai’s striking advantage was too much for Davis, who came out behind in every exchange. Wiratchai stormed the gates, attacking Davis with every strike in his arsenal.
Although Davis showed the true heart of a warrior, he would be no match for Wiratchai’s onslaught. It was one of the most dominant first rounds for a fighter in recent memory. But that’s where things got interesting.
Somewhere along the way, Davis saw an opening. Wiratchai, knowing he virtually had the fight in the bag, started to get playful with his tactics. Out of nowhere, Davis dropped Wiratchai with a spinning back fist and nearly finished him as the crowd erupted to a throng of cheers.
Wiratchai, still reeling from the impact of the blow, tried his best to stay on even footing but Davis continued his pursuit. From then on it was a war of attrition as both fighters repeatedly attacked each other with their best shots.
In the end, it was Wiratchai who was able to come away with the technical knockout, although Davis sent a message to everyone watching not to discount the value of hard work.
#3 Ariel Sexton vs Roger Huerta at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS, Hefei, China, 2 July
Roger “El Matador” Huerta had been in some tough battles throughout the course of his career, and although he had been able to use his talent to get himself out of some rough spots, it was not going to be easy against the man they call Tarzan.
Ariel Sexton, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, was always going to be a tricky challenge for any opponent, but no one expected him to beat Huerta the way he did last July in China.
At the sound of the opening bell, Huerta showed flashes of his trademark style, heavily reliant on Muay Thai and sheer aggressiveness. Sexton tried his best to take the action to the mat where he owned the advantage, but Huerta was not going down with a fight.
As Huerta continued his assault, Sexton realized this matchup was not going to be a grappling battle, and he had to beat Huerta at his own game. That’s when Sexton turned up the pressure and showcased his world-class stand-up.
In a furious exchange of strikes, Sexton peppered Huerta with a plethora of uppercuts, hooks, and power shots, slipping “El Matador’s” attacks and countering with great accuracy. By the middle of the third round, Huerta simply had enough as Sexton dropped him with a volley of unanswered punches.
#4 Eduard Folayang vs Adrian Pang at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD, Macau, 13 August
When you have two of the toughest fighters in Asia coming together inside the ONE Championship cage looking to pounce, you just know you have something special. Lightweight standouts Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Adrian Pang went to war last August, with the winner set to face ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Filipino MMA veteran rose to the occasion. Folayang had long been the face of Philippines MMA. He was with ONE Championship from the beginning of the promotion, and now five years later, he hit the prime of his career.
After a terrific performance against Tetsuya Yamada in his last bout, Folayang took on the dangerous Pang and knew he was up against a solid competitor. Pang stalked Folayang with very little movement, slowly plodding forward looking to land a big shot. Folayang, utilizing his famous wushu skills, danced away from peril and unleashed a variety of strikes including side kicks, roundhouses, and spinning back fists. Pang would walk right through most of it bravely, although he dropped to a knee on occasion.
There is much to be said about Pang’s durability. For three whole rounds, he was rarely bothered by Folayang’s lightning-quick strikes. He knew all he had to do was land one big shot and it would set him up for the finish. But Folayang, employed a highly tactical and intelligent game plan, one that carried him to victory.
It was one of the finest performances of Folayang’s career, and earned him a shot at ONE Championship gold against Aoki at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November.
#5 Istela Nunes vs Mei Yamaguchi at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD, Macau, 13 August
At the glitzy locale of Asia’s entertainment district in Macau, ONE Championship put together an entire card full of compelling bouts, but one stood out.
Former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship challenger Mei Yamaguchi took on Muay Thai champion and ONE Championship newcomer Istela Nunes, and as is the case more often than not, the women were ready to fight.
Yamaguchi and Nunes wasted no time in engaging in fireworks, blasting each other with heavy-handed blows to the delight of the crowd. Yamaguchi, bouncing on the balls of her feet from her trademark karate stance, attacked Nunes from the outside with pinpoint accuracy and unmatched ferocity.
Nunes laid back and looked to counter, and smiled as she unleashed her powerful responses. With every round that passed, each fighter upped the intensity and frequency of their strikes. When the fight hit the canvas, it was a constant jockey for dominant position and an opportunity to do damage with ground-and-pound.
In the end, Nunes did just enough to slide in for a split decision victory. Yamaguchi, still ever the fierce lioness, performed exceptionally in a losing effort. Whether or not Nunes has earned herself a shot at Angela Lee is unknown, but one thing is for certain – a rematch against Yamaguchi would definitely be welcome.